Vikes Sweep League Tennis Titles
The Union Pines boys turned in another top-notch performance Thursday in Sanford at the 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference tennis tournament, claiming the top two spots in singles and doubles action.
With a 10-1 victory in the title match over freshman teammate Jordan Allen, Viking junior John Dangerfield collected his third CFVC singles title.
“This one means a lot to me,” Dangerfield said, “and I don’t take these for granted either — it really feels good. Since last season I have improved a lot. I have gotten stronger, faster, bigger, and I am more mentally focused than I was last year.
“So all of that has helped a lot, and I have also played many more tournaments this year in USTA junior events.”
By accomplishing the feat, Dangerfield became only the second player at Union Pines to win three league singles championships. Jay Frye, a 1994 graduate and doubles state champion along with Daniel Buchan, won four consecutive single crowns during his storied Viking career.
Viking head coach John Frye, Jay’s father and recent North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame inductee, spoke about Dangerfield’s achievement.
“Anytime you have won three singles titles in league play you are automatically joining a select group of players,” Frye said, “and that is not just at Union Pines but anywhere. We have had a lot of players win a championship or even two, but to get the third one is quite special.”
Luke Foushee of Southern Lee defeated Overhills’ Jacob Lee by a 10-6 margin in the third-place match to claim the CFVC’s other regional spot in singles to join Dangerfield and Allen.
After the championship match, Allen, who as a freshman is Dangerfield’s doubles partner in dual competition, spoke about what he would be taking away from his first conference tournament.
“JD and I had played a few times before, and I knew he was a really strong opponent,” Allen said, “so I was not going into the final with too many expectations. I just came in with the mindset that he was going to play his game, I was going to play mine, and in the end he came out on top.
“I always learn something when I play him, and it feels good to know I made it to the final. Hopefully, I can use this experience for the rest of this season as well as in seasons to come.”
In doubles play, the Union Pines tandem of senior Kyle Gatti and junior Adam Howard took home the league title with a 10-5 win over the Vike pairing of junior Matt Lorenz and freshman Dylan Dinkins.
With the outcome, all four Vikings qualified for 3-A Mid-East Regional competition, along with the Gray’s Creek duo of Sean Huse and Jared Kaiser, who earned a 10-6 victory in the third-place match against fellow Bear teammates Parker Hoyt and Brandon Harrion.
The double crown was the first individual CFVC title for both Gatti and Howard in their Viking careers.
“Obviously this feels great,” Howard said, “but at the same time you don’t want to beat your teammates, but then again you do. At the end of the day, no one wants to be second, so I was glad we were able to beat them (Lorenz and Dinkins) and get this title.”
Gatti agreed with his playing partner, admitting that winning a doubles title “feels great.”
“I am glad I was finally able to get up here and get it done,” he said. “Last year was a bit disappointing, getting (a) runner-up (finish), so it felt good to go out there and play a very good match to take home first place this year. It is always good to win.
“With all six of us making it to the finals of this event and qualifying for regionals, it just shows how hard we push each other in practice, and that is how we get better over the course of the season. It shows too when we come to the conference tournament.”
The 3-A Mid-East Regional is scheduled to take place next Friday and Saturday (May 4 and 5) at the Burlington Tennis Center in Burlington.
Gatti feels the All-Vike bill in the CFVC doubles final was a good way for Union Pines to get ready for the 3-A NCHSAA dual-team playoffs that begin Tuesday as the Vikes host Ledford, the second seed from the Mid-Piedmont Conference, at the John S. Frye Tennis Facility in Cameron at 4:30 p.m.
“Doubles is our weak point as a dual team,” he said, “so this absolutely helps us get ready for the playoffs. When we played Chapel Hill, we took a 4-2 lead after singles play only to watch it get tied 4-4 before Matt (Lorenz) and Dylan (Dinkins) pulled it out. We have been working hard all year to improve our doubles so we can not only get to Chapel Hill in the playoffs but even further.
“As a team we are very excited for the playoffs and feel like we can hang with any team out there, including Cardinal Gibbons. There is not a team out there that we don’t think we can take the court and compete against with a chance to win.”
With a record of 16-0, Union Pines is the fourth-ranked team in the 3-A state poll, while Cardinal Gibbons occupies the top spot. Sixth-ranked Chapel Hill finished second in the 3-A Carolina Conference, behind first-place Cardinal Gibbons, and could travel to Union Pines Thursday in round two of the playoffs as a two seed, should the Vikes get past Ledford in round one.
Contact F.W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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